The Club You Want to Join: Salsa Parties and 250 Laps for Physical Activity

Wichita, KS | January 2015 | By National Recreation and Park Association

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The City of Wichita Park and Recreation Department was one of 50 grant recipients of the NRPA and the Walmart Foundation’s Out-of-School Time grants in 2014. Through a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, the Out-of-School Time grants were offered for park and recreation agencies to increase the number of healthy meals served, incorporate evidence-based nutrition education, and implement healthy eating and physical activity standards into their sites. With the grant funding they received, Wichita was able to expand their healthy programming for children across their community by adding nutrition education and physical activity to their summer camp curriculum. They implemented the OrganWise Guys program as part of the grant which helped to provide guidance and support to their staff. OWG turned out to be quite popular at their sites; staff even noticed campers increasingly competing to “bring the healthiest lunches and do more push-ups” throughout the program. This theme was also evident in some of the creative health and wellness activities that Wichita added to their year-round programming.

The City of Wichita Park and Recreation Department had success with a variety of programs that they incorporated in their summer camps and year-round out-of-school times including: bringing in certified fitness instructors and sports clinicians to teach boot camps and hip-hop dance classes, conducting sports clinics, arranging obstacle courses for the children to encourage physical activity and motor skill development and taking a creative approach on running and walking programs. One of the creative twists they introduced over the summer was the “250 Lap Club”. The club encouraged children to walk, jog, or run laps in the gym each day during designated times. The laps were recorded for each child throughout the summer with the individual goal of completing 250 laps by the end of the program. Each participant that achieved the 250 laps received a special prize at the end of summer. As a group, over 14,300 laps were completed throughout the summer! With the addition of physical activity programming, Wichita saw children adopting and understanding the importance of exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

In addition to their successful physical activity programming, Wichita also incorporated nutrition education into their curriculum. The children loved to participate in the healthy cooking projects and gardening programs offered at the facilities. Wichita established a gardening area in which campers created and maintained sustainable gardens and grew tomatoes, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and cilantro. They were able to use these veggies in their healthy cooking classes and even made fresh salsa for a Salsa Celebration Party with their parents! They also made fresh fruit kabobs and yogurt parfaits during the year, which the campers loved.

The biggest challenge for the city of Wichita throughout the grant process was finding ways to involve parents and encourage them to engage in the nutrition and physical activity education at home. They were able to overcome this obstacle by inviting parent participation in special events like salsa parties and field days, sharing the educational curriculum, and providing take-home materials and projects created by the kids to increase dialogue at home.

Overall, Wichita was tremendously successful in implementing new nutrition education and physical activity programs to increase healthy living opportunities for their community.